The Voltage Gate

In Memory of Arthur C. Clarke


I heard this morning on the news that Sir Arthur C. Clarke has passed. NPR did a nice piece on him, if a bit focused on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was a big influence on me and my interest in science and science fiction, and I thought it would be nice to have a permanent memorial of sorts, celebrating some of his own words.

Here’s to the long, influential life of a great author and scientist.

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Clarke’s laws, whether or not we can specifically cite them, have had a huge impact on science in storytelling, to the extent that these ideas, the archetypal scientist, the mind-blowing step in the evolution of a sapient species (like in Childhood’s End, or the Q in Star Trek) and the technological wizardry of an advanced civilization are ubiquitous. Clarke was kind enough to point this out to us, with a bit of humor.

And speaking of Clarke’s humor:

I don’t believe in God but I’m very interested in her.

I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarian and we’re skeptical.

Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software.

I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.

CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn’t want to give up power.

And finally, here are some of Clarke’s thoughts on humanity, on science, religion and politics, which I have always found to be insightful:

The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.

I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.

It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.

The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.

All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.

I hope your quest brought you happiness, Dr. Clarke. You certainly gave the world that sense of exploration and the joy you found in it. Here’s hoping we will never find what we think will make us happy. Cheers.

*Edited to include an “e” in Clarke’s name because I’m and e-diot.


  1. #1 bartkid
    March 19, 2008

    I was daydreaming a few months ago, and out of nowhere came this thought: Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End was a metaphor for Generation Y’s immersive connectedness.

  2. #2 Lana
    March 20, 2008

    The great writer. One of few pillars of our time, for me it – an alive legend. It is very a pity, when such people leave.

  3. #3 chat
    October 15, 2008


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